By Zia Ur Rehman
September 5, 2019
Among the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) 14 MNAs who were elected from Karachi in the last general elections, the victory of Abdul Shakoor Shad was one of the greatest upsets as he managed to defeat none other than the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) young supremo, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in the constituency of Lyari, which had been the PPP’s stronghold since the party’s inception.
The people of Lyari voted for the PTI as they thought the PPP had failed to resolve their issues. However, one year after the general elections, Shad is of the view that the PTI, which was able to form the federal government after the polls, has continuously ignored him and his constituency.
Speaking with The News, he said he was also not invited to the meeting of the Sindh Infrastructure Development Committee on Monday, although he was its member. Governor Imran Ismail, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Khusro Bakhtiar, and others attended the meeting to discuss the city’s development.
“I and my constituency are being ignored continuously,” said Shad, the elected MNA from NA-246, a constituency comprising the Lyari and Old City areas of Karachi. “Residents, political and civil society activists and community-based organisations had helped me win the polls against the PPP chairman only for bringing change and prosperity in the city’s conflict-hit region. But now, I feel pressure from them because I am toothless and the federal government is not helping me address the civic issues.”
Shad, who remained associated with the PPP as its youth leader for several decades, had earlier also contested general elections from Lyari’s National Assembly seat as an independent candidate, but could not win. After a decade, he made his way to the National Assembly after securing 52,750 votes in NA-246, defeating the PPP chairperson who ranked third after bagging 39,325 votes.
He was supported by many political workers, civil society activists and community organisations of Lyari as he canvassed for votes under the slogan ‘Lyari Lyari walon ka [Lyari belongs to the people of Lyari]’.
Nasir Kareem Baloch, PTI’s candidate for Lyari’s provincial assembly constituency PS-108 in the 2018 general elections, has also left the party and joined the PPP after he experienced the similar apathy from the PTI leadership towards the issues of Lyari.
Shad said there was now a common perception among Lyari’s residents that after the PPP chairperson’s defeat from an area that was considered a PPP’s bastion in Karachi, the provincial government had been ‘victimising’ the area by not resolving its water, sewerage and other civic issues.
“In such a situation, I feel pressure from the residents to resolve the area’s civic issues and therefore I have seriously been thinking to resign from the National Assembly seat because of that pressure,” the MNA said. He, however, added that some leaders of the PTI had contacted and assured him that his reservations would be addressed soon. He said he had been living in Lyari for years and understood the severity of civic issues in the area. “K-Electric, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, District South municipality – no department is interested to resolve Lyari’s issues.”
Many residents and activists in the area agree with Shad regarding the PTI’s apathy towards Lyari. Zahid Barakzai, a leader of the Lyari Awami Mahaz (LAM), a group of local social activists, said people of Lyari had voted for Shad and the PTI because they were frustrated with the PPP for its involvement in gang violence. “But now residents, and even PTI’s young supporters, have been expressing their displeasure at Shad for his failure to resolve their issues.”
An LAM team had a meeting with Shad last week to discuss the civic issues of Lyari. Barakzai recalled that six months ago, Shad had brought Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi to Lyari who vowed to establish a mega centre of NADRA in the area, but the federal government had so far failed to start any work. PTI workers of District South are also angry with the party for ignoring Shad. “The PTI has missed a great opportunity to keep intact its support in the city, especially Lyari,” remarked Shahzeb Mehmood, a PTI supporter from the Baghdadi area. He added that if the situation did not change, the party would not be able to win a single seat from Lyari in the local government polls.